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5. In his dealings with the rest of the citizens he was less blame-worthy as an enemy than as a friend; for he would not injure his enemies without just cause, but joined his friends even in their unjust practices. And whereas he was ashamed not to honour his enemies when they did well, he could not bring himself to censure his friends when they did amiss, but actually prided himself on aiding them and sharing in their misdeeds. For he thought no aid disgraceful that was given to a friend. [2] But if, on the other hand, his adversaries stumbled and fell, he was first to sympathize with them and give them zealous aid if they desired it, and so won the hearts and the allegiance of all. The ephors, accordingly, seeing this, and fearing his power, laid a fine upon him, alleging as a reason that he made the citizens his own, who should be the common property of the state.

[3] Natural philosophers are of the opinion that, if strife and discord should be banished from the universe, the heavenly bodies would stand still, and all generation and motion would cease in consequence of the general harmony. And so the Spartan law-giver seems to have introduced the spirit of ambition and contention into his civil polity as an incentive to virtue, desiring that good citizens should always be somewhat at variance and in conflict with one another, and deeming that complaisance which weakly yields without debate, which knows no effort and no struggle, to be wrongly called concord. [4] And some think that Homer also was clearly of this mind; for he would not have represented Agamemnon as pleased when Odysseus and Achilles were carried away into abuse of one another with ‘frightful words,’ 1 if he had not thought the general interests likely to profit by the mutual rivalry and quarrelling of the chieftains. This principle, however, must not be accepted without some reservations; for excessive rivalries are injurious to states, and productive of great perils.

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load focus Greek (Bernadotte Perrin, 1917)
hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), E´PHORI
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
    • Homer, Odyssey, 8.75
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (1):
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